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Bar Billiards Rules


Bar Billiards has no formal governing body and many localized variations exist. With that, these rules should serve as a general guideline for bar billiards play. Always be sure to check for local variations which may exist before beginning. You will not find a standardized set of world rules. If in doubt, players should always abide by local or house rules.

Bar Billiards Equipment

Bar billiards tables differ from regular pocket billiard tables. The table is smaller, contains no pockets, has holes in the table's bed, and contains three pegs which stick out of the tables bed. Bar billiards is traditionally played on either a Sams or Jelkes table. These tables measure 33.5 inches wide by 56 to 56.5 inches from spot to far corner. You will see smaller tables, just as in pocket billiards, but these are usually of low quality, and will not conform to most league regulations.

The game is also played in the Channel Islands, and the tables used there are made by Burroughs and Watts are approximately 34 x 69 inches.

The table has nine holes sunk in to the bed of the table. There are five holes in a row at one end of the table, and four more holes in a diamond formation at the opposite end.

The nearest hole to the front rail in the diamond is worth 200 points and has a black skittle in front of it which must not be toppled. The next two holes in the diamond near the sides of the table are each worth 50 points. The hole at the end of the diamond is worth 100 points. The holes across the end of the table score 30, 20, 10, 20 and 30 respectively. Finally, there is a spot in front of the 200 hole for the red ball and a baulk line across the width of the table near the front with a small D extending forward from it.


Skittle arrangements can vary but the black skittle always lies in front of the 200 hole and if toppled, causes the shooting player to lose their entire score. Skittles are either thin pins with a bar through the top to prevent them falling into a hole or mushroom shaped.

Here are all known skittle arrangements:


One black and two white or red. The white or red skittles forfeit only the current break score if toppled, and are usually positioned either side of the 100 hole.
One black, two white, and one red. The white skittles are sometimes positioned on either side of the 100 hole but more commonly in this difficult variant, they are positioned in front of the 50 holes. They forfeit the current break score if toppled. The red skittle is positioned in front of the 100 hole and like the black skittle, forfeits the entire score if toppled.
One black and three reds in front of 100 and 50 holes. This option usually features the mushroom shaped skittles. The red skittles forfeit just the current break score if toppled.
The rules below assume either the first or last option but the middle option is played in the same way except that the red skittle also forfeits the entire score if toppled.

When a ball is potted, it falls underneath the table and comes to a rest in one of the compartments in a trough at the front end. There is a scoring mechanism located just above the trough and as each ball is potted, the score is recorded. Balls in a trough or behind the baulk line waiting to be played are referred to as being "in baulk".

Bar Billiards Rules - Game Start

A coin flip is performed to decide which player will begin the game. The first player starts with the red ball on it's spot. They then take a white ball from the trough at the front of the table and place it in the D for the first strike. The game is normally played by two people but can also be played by three or four players as in pocket billiards.

Bar Billiards Rules - Basic Play

Each players inning consists of a number of strikes. Their inning ends when a player makes a non-scoring strike or commits a foul stroke.

A strike is taken by the player taking a white or red ball from a trough at the front of the table, putting it within the D at the front of the table and then hitting it with the cue.

The red ball gives double points, so generally players will normally pick the red ball if it is available. The goal is to hit another ball on the table in a manner that causes at least one ball to drop in to one of the holes. If this is accomplished, the player continues their break with the next ball.

When a white ball is potted, it scores the number of points associated with that hole. If a red ball is potted, it scores twice the number of points associated with that hole.

Bar Billiards Rules - Fouls

A foul is committed by:

causing a ball to return back behind the baulk line
knocking over a skittle
causing a ball to leave the table.
failing to hit any other ball with the cue ball
In each of these cases, the shooting player's inning comes to an end, and any points that were scored in that inning are lost. Also, if the black skittle has been knocked over, the shooting player's score for the entire game resets to zero. At the end of a shooting player's inning, any balls remaining on the table surface are left where they are and the next player begins his turn by retrieving a ball from the trough, placing it in the D and striking it up the table.

There are also some rules that are used or seen far less often, but that deserve mention:

If there are no balls available from the trough with which to take a strike, the ball nearest to the baulk line is retrieved instead.
If a skittle is knocked over and a ball prevents it being replaced, the ball should be returned to baulk.
If a ball comes to rest in the D, it should be returned to baulk.
If a skittle is moved but not knocked over, the skittle should be returned to it's spot before the next strike.
Where a strike causes both a white and a black skittle to be knocked down, if the black skittle was toppled first, the black skittle penalty is taken (entire score is reset to zero); if the white skittle was toppled first, the white skittle penalty is taken (that turn scores nothing).
Bar Billiards Rules - Ending The Game
The majority of bar billiards tables are coin-operated and each coin gives a game of a certain length of time between 15.5 and 19 minutes. When that time as elapsed, the baffle-bar drops inside the table which prevents potted balls from returning to the trough at the front of the table. Once that happens, play continues as described above but the number of balls in play gradually decreases. Sometimes, the last 2 or 3 balls are all potted in one strike in which case the game ends at that point. Most often though, there will only be one ball left.

Bar Billiards Rules - The Final Ball

If it happens that only one ball remains, a special rule comes into play. Before it can be struck, the two white skittles are placed into the 50 holes and the top holes are guarded to prevent the ball being potted into any of those holes. Then, the game can only be ended by a player hitting the ball from the D in such a way that it bounces off the side cushion and falls into the the 100 hole or 200 hole. Needless to say, the risk of knocking over the black skittle while attempting to achieve this is significant. The players take turns to do this until either the ball is successfully potted in the 100 hole or 200 hole or until the game is forfeited because the ball falls into a different hole or the black skittle is knocked over.

If the final ball strikes one of the white skittles then a foul is assessed. If the ball should then enter the 100 or 200 holes, the game is forfeited. In the case where the difference in points is greater than 200, continuing play would be unnecessary because the leading player can avoid going anywhere near the skittles and be guaranteed the win. Technically, the game isn't finished until the last ball is potted but it is normal in this case for the losing player to offer their hand and willingly concede the game.

Bar Billiards Rules - Variations


Alternative rules and table variations are plenty. The duration of the game can be set from anywhere between 5 minutes and 20 minutes, and the number of balls and skittles used can vary. Values of holes can differ as can precisely where the skittles are located. Some rules state that the red ball is always placed back onto it's spot each time it is potted. Others have a spot for the first white ball too. Some rules say that the last ball can only be potted in the 200 hole.

Bar Billiards Rules

The bar billiards rules article was posted on 10/13/2006 2:06:34 AM and updated on 3/5/2008 8:35:00 PM. The bar billiards rules article was edited by Billiards Forum Editor.



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